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Ovechkin No. 1 pick in NHL Network mock draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Ovechkin No. 1 pick in NHL Network mock draft
NHL Network analysts Kevin Weekes and Mike Johnson took their shots at stepping into the skates of Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom to pick their All-Star teams
Kevin Weekes played just one season with Eric Staal, but it gave the NHL Network analyst the insight he felt he needed to climb inside the All-Star captain's head and take part in a mock draft for this year's All-Star Game.

Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom will do the picking for real Friday at the NHL All-Star Fantasy Player Draft (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN), but on Thursday, Weekes and fellow analyst Mike Johnson took their shot at picking how the draft might go.

Weekes, who played with Staal during the 2003-04 season on the Carolina Hurricanes, represented Team Staal, while Johnson, who played against Lidstrom numerous times during his 11-season NHL career, represented Team Lidstrom.

A coin flip gave Weekes the first pick, and he didn't hesitate in taking Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin. Even though Ovechkin's offensive numbers are down this season -- he has just 19 goals -- Weekes is sold.

"He's one of the most dynamic players in the National Hockey League," he said. "Speed, size, laser-like shot, loves to play the game, tons of passion. He brings it each and every night."

Ovechkin was the first pick of the 2004 Entry Draft, which, coincidentally, was held in Raleigh.

With his first pick Johnson went with another outstanding offensive player, the Lightning's Steven Stamkos. At the All-Star break, Stamkos leads the League with 38 goals and 67 points.

"In a game that's all about offense, I'm going with the No. 1 offensive player in the League," said Johnson, who added he can play Stamkos with his Tampa linemate, Team Lidstrom alternate captain Martin St. Louis.

With his second pick, Weekes opted for Stars center Brad Richards, envisioning him as the perfect set-up man for Ovechkin.

"He's one of the premiere playmakers in the game," said Weekes. "He's a pass-first guy, very creative, makes the easy pass all the time, makes the spectacular pass very often as well. He makes his teammates a lot better. He's a very smart player."

Johnson then went for a set-up man of his own, choosing Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. At the All-Star break, Sedin leads the League with 50 assists.

"In a game full of snipers and guys that like to shoot the puck," said Johnson, "it's nice to have a guy that thinks pass first."

With his next pick, Weekes added a lot of intrigue, selecting Daniel Sedin. To combat that Johnson chose Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, meaning there would be a pair of sibling vs. sibling battles.

Staal was the first blueliner picked, and Weekes came back with a defenseman of his own, tabbing the Thrashers' Dustin Byfuglien with his fourth choice.

With his fourth pick, Johnson picked second-year Avalanche forward Matt Duchene.

"He is electrifying with the puck," Johnson said, "and he's not going to be shy on the big stage. He's going to fit right in with the big stars because he is a big star himself. He's got speed to burn -- he can get up and down the ice as fast as any one in the League. In a game that's going to be a track meet, he'll fit right in. He's got tremendous hands, net-front presence, and I don't think he'll mind shooting for an MVP-type performance. He's got that in him."

"He's one of the most dynamic players in the National Hockey League, speed, size, laser-like shot, loves to play the game, tons of passion. He brings it each and every night."
-- Kevin Weekes on Alex Ovechkin

Weekes took the Kings forward Anze Kopitar with his fifth pick, while Johnson took Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle.

The first goalies came off the board starting at No. 11, with Weekes choosing the Bruins' Tim Thomas, and Johnson choosing the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist.

After taking Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara at No. 13, he made what should be a popular move for hometown fans, choosing Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward at No. 15. At No. 14, Johnson had nabbed Canadiens goalie Carey Price.

Weekes took Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews with the 17th overall pick, and then solidified his defense with his next three selections -- Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle and Wild defenseman Brent Burns.

Johnson opted for a pair of Flyers forwards, taking Claude Giroux at No. 16 and Danny Briere at No. 18. He then took his third goalie, the Ducks Jonas Hiller, at No. 20. He added defending Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks at No. 22, and Predators defenseman Shea Weber at No. 24.

A run on offensive players came in the next three picks, as Weekes took the Ducks' Corey Perry and the Stars' Loui Eriksson, while Johnson picked the Blue Jackets' Rick Nash. At No. 27, Johnson went for offense from the back end with the Penguins' Kris Letang.

Weekes rounded out his defense corps by taking the Senators Erik Karlsson at No. 29, while Johnson chose the Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp at No. 30.

"He's great for so many different reasons, primarily his versatility," said Johnson. "He can play center if he has to, can play either wing. That should round out the lines nicely."

With four forwards remaining, Weekes went for a player he believed is the fastest remaining, the Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel.

"This guy's got speed to burn and a good shot to boot," said Weekes. "Tremendous hands, has a nose for the net, very savvy when it comes to scoring goals and playing in the offensive end. His speed, his skills and his shot will all be in full display."

Johnson opted for grit at No. 32, choosing a former teammate in the Blues' David Backes.

"You have to appreciate bringing a little physicality, a little grit," said Johnson. "He does have some pretty good skills, pretty good hands, a good release. He's a versatile guy, can play center or either wing position. And I like the fact he's had some run-ins with some of the stars. He's going to make his presence known however he has to do it."

With his final pick, Weekes went for a former teammate of his own, the Devils' Patrik Elias.

The final pick, made by Johnson, will be one of the most popular players on the ice Sunday -- Hurricanes rookie forward Jeff Skinner.  

"He's going to be comfortable in his home arena, in front of his home fans," said Johnson. "They'll be cheering for him, and that'll maybe take away some of the nerves."

The draft was conducted before Minnesota's Martin Havlat and Colorado's Paul Stastny were added to the rosters.

Could this be the way things go Friday night? Did Weekes and Johnson capture the thought process of Team Staal and Team Lidstrom? Or will things work out differently?

Fans will have to tune in to find out.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com


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